Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Just Wondering

Getting off the media reservation and reading conservative news sources is something we postliberals do, er, have done. Which comes first? Does reading/watching/hearing conservative sources as opposed to the standard liberal ones create the change fairly automatically by reflecting reality better, or do you have to already get it to a certain extent to read New Media without your head exploding?

If the former, we might do better to simply challenge people to read other sources rather than attempting to argue with them.

It's sort of like the idea that wags had about bringing down the USSR by dropping planeloads of Sears Catalogues on them; or more seriously, the Bible distributors who work to simply get Bibles into a country to work on their own even if no missionaries are there.


raf said...

I'm thinking it may be a recursive process. For any meaning to penetrate, there has to be an initial susceptability, but given that, exposure and reinforcement can erode prior beliefs. Scattering Bibles (or other doctrine) in front of the "differently-faithed" may lead to a lot of exploded crania, but maybe the occaisional convert. Or, if not convert, perhaps someone with whom a conversation is possible.

Gringo said...

For me, I "got it" in varying degrees before turning more to right wing media. While still a left-wing college student, I read National Review, just to see how the dark side thought. I read it for years, along with the Nation, without changing my political compass.

When a university student I once ran across a letter to the Editor in NR from someone from my high school stating that as a conservative he was not harassed at his Ivy League college. This person and his father may have been a kernel in my transition that took place decades later.The father was a refugee from Hitler, but also rather conservative in his political views, as was the son. Which showed me there was an alternative way of looking at things, even if at the time I did not agree. It definitely shook up the right wing= Nazi classification, though it took me years to realize it.

My transition to the dark side had more to to with my internal reaction to external events, such as 1)my working in Latin America changed my view of the US as the "great sinner," 2) the genocide in Cambodia changed my view on pacifism, and 3) the wars in Central America. What I read in in NR on such issues was NOT what caused me to change my mind. Rather, NR made more sense to me.

Terro said...

It takes an unusual degree of open mindedness for a liberal to pick up a conservative publication and begin to actually read it. We all tend to read sources we already agree with, so the initial act to look at the opposition probably results from something actual and prickly... like wondering why after years of the welfare state, the poor are no better off or realizing that to be "poor" in the U.S. is to be rich in many other places or to recognize the erosion of individual rights under liberal law making.

Once bitten, I think liberals return to publications like National Review and The Wall Street Journal because these are better written and make better sense to anyone capable of logical thinking than the typical leftist screeds. And then, of course, there's the question of facts that, by and large, support conservative policy.

Retriever said...

I agree with Terro about how we tend to read things that agree with what we already think. This is why, for example, one of my kids read a particular conservative blog with me with great enthusiasm the year before college, and three months later, was snarking at the same blog after the Freshman 180 (if she would even read pieces from it I would send her). On the one hand, I believe that good arguments and reasonable discussion eventually convince people who listen and reflect,but they have to first be willing to pay attention. And there are good people in phases of life when they are unwilling to listen (most of us in youth?) who will not listen, and others constitutionally incapable ever.

Kurt said...

For me the term "post-liberal" is not completely accurate, since I never fully considered myself a liberal to begin with. In my late teens and in my college years, I certainly disagreed with my conservative parents, and I aspired to be a liberal, but there were large parts of the leftist agenda that I was never able to accept.

Nevertheless, I was always willing to give liberals and Democrats the benefit of the doubt and to sympathize with their views throughout college and graduate school. I could see many of the flaws in the leaders of their party, but I bought into the standard leftist critiques of conservatives, and so I always dismissed what they had to say. When my parents listened to Rush Limbaugh on the radio, I rolled my eyes and catalogued all of the ridiculous exaggerations, generalizations and logical fallacies.

It was only in the late 90s that my view of liberals (leftists, really) and Democrats began to change. With the Clinton scandals, I couldn't stand their hypocrisy in defending him, and I saw just how illogical and poorly informed their attacks on conservatives were. A few years later, I got a job where I had to read the Wall Street Journal. I had never read the Journal before in my life, and I was astounded to discover that it was well-written and interesting. I was even more astounded when I read some Wall Street Journal editorials and agreed with them. Soon enough I started checking out "The Best of the Web Today" online, which eventually led me to discover Instapundit and Andrew Sullivan. (I have since given up completely on Sullivan.)

Jonathan said...

Kurt: I aspired to be a liberal

this perfectly encapsulates my junior and senior year of high school.

How Mr Lull ever put up with my People for the American Way sticker on my binder and constant harping is a testament to his good nature.

Kurt said...

Well, a certain amount of it was thinking that all of the cool, smart kids were liberal and so I had to be, too. There were some smart kids who weren't liberal--in fact they were conservative or libertarian--but regardless of how smart they may have been, there was nothing cool about them at all.

In retrospect, it's sort of amusing. At 13 or 14 I cared nothing about being anything like the supposedly cool kids--mainly because they weren't very smart or interesting. But at 17 or 18 or 19 I really wanted to fit in and be accepted by the subset of the smart kids who I perceived as cool, largely because they were liberal.

Gringo said...

A point about high school culture and liberals. I was born into a liberal milieu. No ifs, ands, or buts about that. I lived in a rural town – forests and dairy farms abounded- and attended a regional high school in a suburban and more liberal town.

While there was a fair amount of integration among the kids of the two towns- I and others from our town were elected to the high school student council- there was still a certain stigma attached to my town at the regional high school. Hicks, dumb farmers, you know the drill.

Years later, when I turned to the dark side, I thought of my high school. People who were so willing to condemn bigotry a thousand miles away in Alabama, were quite willing to practice it in another form at home. A peer who was fast and furious with the dumb farmer sneers became a social worker type, for example.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Gringo, that persists among social workers, sometimes for years.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

BTW, Gringo, someone came over via search engine to one of the posts on Origins of Liberalism and ripped into your comments. (Discussion 1, Expanding the Circle). Good times.

Gringo said...

AVI, thanks for the tip. I replied in kind. I hope that when I was a liberal I was not as addlepated as that poster is today.

Kurt said...

At the risk of extending this thread even longer, I have to add that your point about the bigotry of the social worker types is consistent with what I've observed myself. A few years ago, I was trying to sustain a close friendship with someone who was quite liberal (and pretty far gone). We had friendly little debates, and mostly left it at that. But he kept trying to integrate me with his other friends, and that didn't work at all because I simply didn't fit in. So mostly I kept my mouth shut at these gatherings rather than be thought rude or worse. But of course, because they thought I was one of them, I got to hear what they really thought, and it was all quite eye-opening. I'll never forget how one time I was at dinner with some of his friends who lived in a rather conservative rural town in California, in the eastern Sierra Nevada. His friends were leftist activist types, and a leftist lesbian couple had moved in across the street. They remarked that they were glad to see that the right kind of people were moving into the neighborhood, and they they started talking about how they were glad none of "those Baptists" had moved in, since there were too many of them elsewhere in town. They were partly joking in making their comments about the "right people," but they weren't joking in making their comments about the Baptists or the other conservative folks who lived in their small rural town.

A few days later, I pointed these things out to my friend, and I asked how it was different from the bigotry of a racist saying he didn't want the "wrong people" moving into his neighborhood. He tried to protest that it was different, but I asked how it was so. He couldn't explain. From then on, he began to grow more distant; a few similar incidents occurred, and eventually the friendship was doomed.